App Monetization

App Monetization, Tips and Advice

7 ad experiences that will kill your retention: freeze, decieve, frustrate, delay, bore, annoy, trick

When integrating ads, one of the biggest concerns is that users might churn away. There is an obvious trade off between the need to give the users a great experience and the need to turn revenue. Not all ads are created equally when it comes to their impact on user retention and it’s important to measure the impact of different ad types and monitor what ad experiences your users are getting from your ad partners. Below is a list of ad experiences to watch for:

 

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

 

1. Crashes and freezes can impact mobile app retention

Ads are served by the ad networks who tend to require an SDK integration. Each SDK increases the complexity of the app and might conflict with other SDKs, in turn cause your app to crashes for your users. This happens especially in edge conditions such as old Android versions or uncommon devices. While crashes are typically reported through your crash analytics provider, there is another type of error that is trickier to track. In some cases, the SDK of the ad network will try to show an ad to the user but will end up freezing the device. This type of error is typically not detected and is harder to monitor but it could have the same negative impact. Both of these errors might cause users to churn away and reduce the overall app usage experience.

2. Close buttons that are hard to find frustrate users

In some situations a full size ad such as an interstitial, video or playable will load and the users will want to close it right away and continue using the app. The lack of an obvious way to skip the ad experience is a big turn off for users who are likely to stop using an app that consistently makes it hard for them to skip the ad experience. There are a few types of ads that have this negative experience. In some cases the X button will have a color that doesn’t pop up from the background, in other cases it will show up only after a few seconds without a clear indication of how long it will take and in other cases it might show up in a different way every time. Sometimes it’s all 3 together causing a very unpleasant experience for the user.

3. Lack of ad diversity will bore your users

It’s one thing to show a user 10 ads per day but it’s another thing to show him the same ad 10 times every day. In addition to being ineffective, repeating the same ad many times is a negative user experience. You may think that advertisers have enough incentive to make sure this doesn’t happen but in today’s mobile advertising eco system the lack of data transparency may result in the same advertiser showing their ads in your app through different channels and without them knowing about each other. In this situation, the frequency capping is not getting enforced.

4. Poorly targeted ads may get your users annoyed

Ads today can be highly targeted and users have come to expect targeted ad content. Poor targeting can range from an ad to a game you already installed and go all the way to inappropriate ad content being targeted to kids. The publishers typically don’t control ad targeting and usually leave it to the ad providers however some ad providers are better than others. While companies like Facebook are known for their hyper targeting, some ad networks have little targeting data to work with and placing the focus not on targeted ads, but rather on their revenue. If you are serious about keeping your retention high, you should monitor ad content and targeting closely.

5. Your users don’t want to wait for a slow loading ad

No one likes to wait but while waiting for something you desire can be tolerable, waiting for an ad to load is likely to be crime in your users’ book. Monitoring the loading time of every single ad can be hard to do on your own but the right monetization measurement platform can help you with it.

6. Deceiving ad creatives are hard to tell from your app buttons

Imagine a user that clicks on a “download” button only to realize it wasn’t a button but actually an ad that looked like the real button. Alternatively, picture someone trying to click on the “next” button but hitting an interstitial ad that popped up between the time his brain sent the command and the time the finger reached the button. These errors might be annoying for a savvy user but think how they impact the experience of a less savvy user who is now trying to figure out where the rabbit hole led him to and how he can get back.

7. Inconsistent ad skipping experience and long duration ads

Users are used to not being able to skip a rewarded video ad. These are opt-in ads that the user initiated and so it makes sense that he can’t skip them. However, other ad placements can have an opt-out experience or have no way to skip at all. Obviously, not having the option to skip is more annoying for users but what will really tick them off is when an ad placement will have a mix of:
  • Ads you can click skip right away
  • Ads that requires no action but just waiting
  • Ads that require a combination of waiting and than clicking to end
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Top 12 rewarded video ad providers for mobile apps including: Unity Ads, Vungle, Adcolony, Receptiv, Admob, FAN, Mopub, Ironsource, Fyber, Tapjoy, Chartboost and Applovin

Video ads are becoming an increasingly important monetization format. Even the biggest app companies are utilizing video ads as part of their monetization strategy and specifically, mobile gaming companies have widely adopted the rewarded video ad format that provides a positive experience for the user and is positively correlated with engagement and retention according to a few researches.

In this post you will find a list of the top 12 rewarded video ad providers divided into 4 categories:

  • Video only networks
  • Ad networks that moved strategically into rewarded video
  • Video ad networks with a mediation platform
  • Media giants who recently moved in

 

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

 

Video Only Networks

These ad networks are purely focused on monetization through video ads. They don’t offer any other ad format and some of them played a major role in educating the market on the benefits of rewarded video ads.

Vungle logo - a video ad networkVungle

Vungle are a key contributor in popularizing video ads among mobile app publishers. When they started out they were focusing on 15 second videos and were offering to produce the videos as part of the deal. Vungle is a private company and is backed by a long list of investors and raised $25M to date.

Name Vungle
Head Quarters San Francisco
Founded 2011
Employees (by Linkedin) 216
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 24% of top 200 Apps
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 26% of top 200 Apps
Global Reach 500M

adcolony logo - the company was the first one to offer rewarded video ads in mobile appsAdcolony

Adcolony is the first company to offer rewarded video ads for mobile apps and they are still one of the top providers in the field. They are 100% focused on video ads and are high on the list of any app publisher who wishes to monetize his app with video ads. Adcolony was acquired by Opera in 2014 for $350M but remained a seperate entity.

Name Adcolony
Head Quarters San Francisco
Founded 2011
Employees (by Linkedin) 540
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 20% of top 200 Apps
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 28% of top 200 Apps
Global Reach 1.4B

Unity ads logo - in 2014 Unity acquired Applifier to offer monetization through video ads to it's developer baseUnity Ads

Unity Ads came to life through the acquisition of Applifier by Unity. Since the acquisition, the video focused ad network experienced fast growth leveraging the dominance of the Unity game engine in the mobile space.

Name UnityAds
Head Quarters San Francisco
Founded Unity was founded in 2003 although video only came later
Employees (by Linkedin) 1,448 (Total Unity employees)
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 21% of top 200 Apps
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 27% of top 200 Apps
Global Reach 770M
 
We also wrote up an in-depth full post on the comparison between ad networks. This will help provide all the details needed for choosing the right Ad Network for your mobile app. Check out the article or download the full comparison spreadsheet below for free.

FREE AD NETWORK COMPARISON SPREADSHEET

 


Receptiv, formerly known as Mediabrix is 100% focused on video ads and their unique offering to advertisers is that the ads will be exposed to users in the glory moments of the gaming experience.Receptiv (formerly Mediabrix)

Receptive who are also known as Mediabrix prior to their rebrand, have a unique offering compared to the last 3 companies mentioned. The company is based only on brand advertisers and has its head quarters in NY where they can be close to the media agencies. To the advertisers, they offer the opportunity to be associated with the winning moments of the user inside the game. To the publisher they offer diversified demand with high eCPM.

Name Receptiv
Head Quarters New York
Founded 2011
Employees (by Linkedin) 84
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) N/A
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) N/A
Global Reach 150M

Ad networks who moved strategically into rewarded video

Applovin logo - the company offers video ads and rewarded videos among other formats but it's still considered a leading providerApplovin

Applovin was making waves in the ad-tech space last year by announcing it’s acquisition for $1.4B. The deal was experiencing some trouble and was not finalized as of today [July 2017]. Regardless of the acquisition, the company is operating as a seperate entity either way and is doing well financially. On the advertiser side, the company offers more control compared to other networks through their self-serve interface. On the publisher side they specialize in interstitials and video ads.

Name Applovin
Head Quarters Palo Alto
Founded 2012
Employees (by Linkedin) 135
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 22% of top 200 Apps
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 25% of top 200 Apps
Global Reach 500M (2014)

Chartboost logo - the company started by offering interstitial ads but made a strategic move to get into video adsChartboost

Chartboost started it’s way as a marketplace for direct deals and was one of the main contributors to the adoption of interstitials as a tool to promote games within other games. Chartboost came a bit late to the video ads space but were catching up quickly by leveraging the distribution of their SDK.

Name Chartboost
Head Quarters San Francisco
Founded 2011
Employees (by Linkedin) 134
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 17%
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 23%
Global Reach 1B

Tapjoy logo - one of the longest lasting independent providers who offers video ads among other monetization formatsTapjoy

Tapjoy started out in the Facebook games space where they were they specialized in incentivized offers. At the time they were known by the name Offerpal but had to rebrand after negative press related to the quality of the offers. They took on the name of a small company they acquired by the name of Tapjoy. Tapjoy had an early product for video ads back in 2012 but were not focused enough on the opportunity and saw the lion share of the market going to competitors.

Name TapJoy
Head Quarters San Francisco
Founded 2007
Employees (by Linkedin) 235
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 12%
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 13%
Global Reach 520M

Video ad networks who also provide mediation

Iron source logo - the video devision came through the acquisition of Supersonic who offers a mediation platform as well as an ad-network for rewarded videosSupersonic / IronSource

Supersonic became part of IronSource via the all Israeli acquisition valued at $250M. Together they are now considered the leader in mobile video mediation. In addition to the mediation service they also have their own video ad network which helps publishers top their fill rates.

Name IronSource
Head Quarters Tel-Aviv
Founded 2009
Employees (by Linkedin) 667 working at IronSource and about 265 in the mobile video division
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 9%
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 12%
Global Reach 800M (for video only)

Fyber logo - the company offers monetization through it's own demand as well as SSP and mediation platform for videoFyber

Fyber started as an offer wall provider by the name of SponsorPay but later on rebranded as Fyber and shifted more of it’s focus towards SSP and mediation with a strong emphasis on video ads. They acquired competing mediation service Heyzap to become a close second to fast growing IronSource / Supersonic platform.

Name Fyber
Head Quarters Berlin
Founded 2009
Employees (by Linkedin) 302
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 5%
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 6%
Global Reach 500M

Media giants who recently moved in to the video space

Admob by Google recently moved into the rewarded video ad spaceAdmob / Google

Google needs no introduction and their mobile ad service Admob which became part of Google through the $750M acquisition in the early days of Smartphones is today the dominant way to monetize apps on Google Play. The giant rolled out rewarded video ads in March 2017. While they are showing later for the party we are sure that their size will allow them to gain momentum quickly.

Name Admob by Google
Head Quarters Mountain View
Founded 1998
Employees (by Linkedin) 76,510
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 33%
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 70%
Global Reach 1B+

Facebook audience network also started offering rewarded video ads. As of June 2017 this offering is still in beta.Facebook Audience Network

Facebook dominates as a destination site for mobile ads but in recent years they have been evolving an ad network by the name of Facebook Audience Network and as of June 2017, FAN is also offering rewarded video ads.

Name Facebook Audience Network
Head Quarters Menlo Park
Founded 2004
Employees (by Linkedin) 19,150
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 28%
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 39%
Global Reach +1B

Mopub logo - the twitter subsidiary is now also offering rewarded video adsMopub / Twitter

Mopub was acquired by Twitter in 2013 for $350M (read more here). It kept it’s identity since and is one of the top 2 mediation platforms and and SSPs in mobile apps when it comes to banners interestitials and native ads. They showed up a bit late to the video ads space and launched video ads marketplace and mediation towards the end of 2015. Their stronger push in the video market only happened in 2017 however.

Name Mopub/Twitter
Head Quarters San Francisco
Founded 2006
Employees (by Linkedin) 3,662 (at Twitter)
iOS Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 16%
Android Market Share (by Mighty Signal) 25%
Global Reach 1B+

 

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App Monetization

Header bidding in mobile

Header bidding created a big buzz in ad-tech spaces and the mobile app eco-system could not stay indifferent to it. There are quite a few problems slowing down the adoption of header bidding in mobile apps and it’s even possible that it’s the wrong model for mobile apps.

Header bidding – what it is

Header bidding works a bit like the role of SSP in the RTB model but different. In both SSP and Header Bidding – the publisher wants to get the best price for an ad impression that will be served to the customer. He runs an auction between the potential advertisers. Each advertiser submits a bid and the winner gets to serve the impression. This process is repeated for each impression.

There are a few differences however:

  • In SSP the auction is managed on the server side and in header bidding it’s on the client side
  • In SSP the winner pays the price of the highest losing bid (2nd price auction) while in header bidding the winner pays the full price
  • Header bidding allows combining a few SSPs in the same web page or mobile app
  • Direct deals can be treated according to their actual CPM and be added to the auction

 

FREE REPORT – Q2 AD MONETIZATION TRENDS

 

Why was header bidding created in the first place

The HB and SSP models are so similar that one might wonder why header bidding was created in the first place. This is partly related to unfair behavior by some SSPs. Specifically, Google was mentioned in a few conversations I had about the subject. The most popular SSPs including Double Click by Google has their own horse in the race – for Google that horse is Ad-x. Any SSP that is running the auction but at the same time placing a bid has motivation for to bend the rules. Real time bidding might appear to be a transparent process in which bending the rules is harder, however, when there is a will there is a why. Specifically in Google’s case it was a feature called “enhanced dynamic allocation” that allows Ad-x to cherry pick inventory from auctions being run by Double Click (their SSP) by seeing the other bids first.

Header bidding in mobile apps

As you can guess from the name. Header bidding was created for web pages and “header” refers to the part of the html code that is loaded first. As of July 2017, none of the top 200 mobile apps has implemented header bidding according to our checks and most vendors who focus on mobile apps as opposed to mobile web don’t support pre-bidding at the moment.

3rd party vendors moving in but diminishing the benefit

Of course, the opportunity for in-app advertising is huge and the players are giants such as FB, Google and Twitter among others. With billions of dollars on the table, there are strong forces who try to push the mobile app eco-system towards header bidding. This can benefit DSPs who are interested in more direct access as well as the exchange providers. However, the adaptation of header bidding to mobile apps is not trivial and some of the offered solutions are “Header bidding in a box” where the auction goes back to the server side. This of course, diminishes the benefits of header bidding as the auction is outsourced to a party that may have bias.

Mobile app advertising is CPI driven

There is a bigger problem that is clouding the future of header bidding in mobile apps. It is not even certain that header bidding can be applied successfully? One might be surprised that not many mobile app companies are pushing for header bidding despite the trend that it created in the mobile web and desktop space. The situation in mobile app advertising is a bit different than that of web advertising. Specifically, mobile app monetization relies heavily on CPI campaigns. These are campaigns that pay only if the user installed the promoted app after he watched an ad. On the other hand, header bidding requires all the parties who are interested in placing the ad to come up with a bidding price upfront. This creates an adoption problem for header bidding. As of now, not many CPI networks are willing to commit to an upfront bid before they know what their payout is going to be. At the same time, mobile app advertisers got very comfortable with the CPI based model as it minimizes the risk. On top of that, for header bidding to work it’s not enough that one CPI network will send bids upfront. You need all of them to do it. This creates a critical mass problem and no one benefits from being the first one to move.

Someone has to take the risk

Going back to the dilema of advertisers that want to pay per install and publishers that wants to earn per impression. This is one of the oldest struggles in advertising:

The publisher risk is high in the CPI model and low in the CPM model while the Advertiser risk is high in the CPM model and low in the CPI model

  • In CPI or CPA models – the publisher takes the risk and the advertiser enjoys guarnteed results
  • In the CPM model – the advertiser takes the risk and the publisher enjoys guarnteed payout

CPC used to be the middle ground but click fraud killed it and the only ones that can afford to do it is Google due to size, brand and massive investment into fraud prevention.

If header bidding gains traction while advertiser continues to pay CPI, the risk will have to be taken by the ad-networks. For example, the ad-network might be bidding $5 CPM. Let’s say they serve 1,000 impressions but these impressions don’t generate a single install. The advertiser will not be paying anything in this situation but the publisher should still be earning $5. At scale, this is a very dangerous position for the ad-network to be in. The ad-networks today have different tools on the advertiser side to monitor fraud and traffic quality and adjust the revenue retroactively. Header bidding will require a similar set of tools to be developed on the publisher side in order to minimize risks for both sides.

Monitoring of header bidding

One area that is still unsolved for header bidding is measurement. In RTB, the SSP manages the auction on the server, collects the money and pays the publisher. In header bidding, this responsibility falls on the publisher side. The auction is managed on the client side and each bidder pays the publisher seperately based on the aggregated amount in all the bids he ended up winning. This requires a system that will billions of impressions on the client side, collect all the winning bids and aggregate them to determine how much the ad-network should be paying. Without such system, the header bidding becomes useless as it will be too exposed to abuse. At the same time, the ad-networks who are now taking the risk will want more visibility into the context in which the ads are shown and to their viewability. The requirement for better measurement will come from both sides.

 

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App Monetization, Research

Header image - the SOOMLA mobile monetization report for Q2 2017 is full of insights about ad revenue in mobile apps

We are super excited to announce our insights report today. We started this practice in 2015 with reports that were more focused on in-app purchase based monetization but this one is all about insights related to monetization through ad revenues. The report explores domains that have never been explored before so lots of interesting insights on this one.

You are welcome to download the report through this link or via the banner to the right.

Would also be great if you can help us spread the word by sharing my post on Linkedin.

Linkedin post about mobile monetization report - q2 2017

 

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Analytics, App Monetization

A browser screen with an eye representing impression, 29 percent written next to 1st impression, also the word volumes is written and eCPM next to a bar chart

About a week ago a friend asked me for a piece of information that should probably interest many others as well. He wanted to know how for rewarded video ads – how many impressions are first impressions vs. second impressions vs. third and so forth. In other words, he wanted to know how big of a deal first impressions are.

Impressions can be analyzed according to their sequence

To understand his quesion, we first need to understand the basics of user interaction with ads. When it comes to linear ad formats such as interstitials, video and rewarded video a user can only watch one at a time. This means that ad impressions have sequence and can be put in order. The first impression a user watches in a given day is considered the most fresh advertising experience he will get and typically yields more for the publisher while providing more value for the advertiser. A user might watch more impressions, a 2nd impression, a 3rd impression and so on. Checking the distribution of ads according to their sequecne means checking how many impressions are first impressions vs. second impressions vs. 3rd and so on and what percentage of the total volume each sequence position gets.

Results – the first 2 impressions give 46% of the volume

The results we found are presented in the chart below. We aggreagated data across all the apps using SOOMLA TRACEBACK and combined the results to a single chart. We excluded apps with less than 100,000 monthly impressiosn. The chart below represents the average with equal weights. In other words, the patterns of apps with high volume and the patterns of apps with smaller volume are equally represented.

Bar chart representing the impression volume for every impression sequence place. The logo of SOOMLA TRACEBACK is also shown

The full data can also be viewed in this table. We also included the minimal and maximal numbers accross all apps.

Impression Min Avg Max
1 13.6% 29.1% 48.3%
2 13.3% 17.4% 22.5%
3 11.6% 12.6% 13.8%
4 6.9% 9.5% 11.4%
5 4.2% 7.9% 9.8%
6 2.5% 6.3% 9.3%
7 1.6% 5.3% 8.9%
8 1.0% 4.5% 7.9%
9 0.6% 4.0% 7.7%
10 0.4% 3.5% 7.2%

First impressions matter

We already talked about the importance of first impressions from an eCPM standpoint in this article and also in this one. According to the data presented here, firstl impressions in rewarded video also matter because they represents a big chunk of the volume.

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App Monetization

Ecpm of new users could be 2x higher compared to loyal users in mobile apps and mobil games

We already wrote here a few times about eCPM decay and some of our tips were also quoted in other places. In this post we are going to talk about another type of eCPM decay – the one that is rarely mentioned. I’m talking about the trend of eCPM going down as a function of how long the user was retained in the game as opposed to the decay that happens as a result of high frequency of ads during the day.

First Test – How eCPM behaves over the life of a user

In this test we looked for users who started playing the game in a certain month and than checked their eCPM in that same month versus the eCPM in the following month and the third month. We did this test across many games to make sure the results are not isolated to a single game. In this chart below you can see the average values, the maximal ones (the game with the highest rate in that month) and the minimal ones (the game with the lowest rate in that month) across all the games we tested. Note that this test was done only with US based users and only in the following ad formats: Offer walls, Rewarded Videos and Interstitials.

Ecpm decay over time in different games showing the ecpm of users in theif first month, 2nd month and 3rd month since started playing the mobil game

There is clearly a trend here. The eCPM is going down the longer the user is retained in the game. In fact, new users can have 2x or more the eCPM of loyal users. We can attempt to explain this finding of course. One assumption is that the same behavior pattern that impacts eCPM decay also comes into play here. Users tend to grow tired of advertising. However, here the situation is a bit different. Consider the case of a user who downloaded a new game this month but might also downloaded another game 3 months ago. It’s the same user so why is he responding better to ads in the new game he downloaded vs. the older game? The answer could be that the user gets tired of ads in a given context seperately. He might learn where the ads are placed and his brain is getting trained better to ignore them. It will be interesting to see what happens if we mix up the ad placements for loyal users to see if we can engage them with the ads again.

Second Test – Does it matter where the user came from?

Here, we tried to see if a user that came organically behaves differently compared to a user that came through paid UA or cross promotion. We compared only for US based users – here is what we found.
Ecpm for users who came through different channels

So it looks like the Cross-promo traffic had very high eCPMs in the first month. Paid installs that came from Facebook also appeared higher than Organic. However, the drastic difference in the eCPM of the usres in the 1st month almost vanished when looking at the the 2nd and 3rd month. Specifically, the cross-promo installs were lower compared to organic installs in the 3rd month. In general, the eCPMs converge to the same levels almost. It seems that the impact of the source of the user only lasts for the first month and after that month the user ‘forgets’ where he came from and users behave in a similar fashion. It’s possible that users who came from an ad into your game are more likely to respond to ads in your game. The fact that the impact only lasts for 1 month could potentially be explained by users response to ads is a temporary behavior and not a long lasting behavior pattern.

Third Test – Do we see the same trend across all ad formats?

We wanted to see if all ad formats behave the same way when it comes to this type of eCPM decay. Do users lose their interest in rewarded videos the same way as they do with interstitials? We compared 3 ad formats and this time we compared not just US traffic but we allowed international traffic. To make it easier to follow we indexed the results so they all fit in the same scale.
Ecpm of users across different formats as a function of how much time they were retained in the game

It’s easy to notice that the findings are consistent across all ad formats we tested. We didn’t check banners and native ads in this study. It’s possible we will do another post specifically focused on that.

Optimizing for the long retained users

One conclusion from this data is that there should be opportunities to better serve ads for loyal users so they monetize better. Here are some ideas to consider specifically for this segment:

  • Serving ads through SSPs – these ads come with an upfront bid price and are less influenced by users’ ad engagement
  • Closing fixed CPM deals for this segment
  • Mixing it up – changing the placements for user who have been playing the game long enough

The impact on LTV calculations

These findings might also impact how companies think about LTV prediction. Many LTV models assume that eCPMs and ARPDAU are not influenced by the amount of time the user played the game. If your existing model is predicting LTV based on the 1st month’S eCPM the actual result might be worse than the predicted LTV.

What about Apps

While the reseacrch was focused on games only we expect that to find the same patterns in Apps. At least that is true for the formats we checked: Rewarded videos, Offer walls and Interstitials.

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App Monetization, Resource

Top 5 Mobile Retention Software : Apsalar, Urban Airship, Swrve, AppSee, Localytics, Countly

Thinking about successful companies like Facebook, Google or Instagram, one thing comes up as an underlying factor for all of them and that is – sustainable growth. We are long past the point where download numbers acts as the main success metric. We now know that the majority of mobile users end up deleting the app after the first 72 hours, so retaining as many as possible becomes essential.

Tech giants and investors are realizing that if your app has a ‘user leak’ somewhere, throwing money into ads, manipulating push notifications and incentivizing new downloads doesn’t do the trick. The solution then comes in the form of retention software solutions. Opportunities to surprise, delight and retain your customers as well as create unique experiences for them are increasing due to the level of detailed data available out there. Product iteration (“updatability”), incentivizing users, mobile personalization of apps and new developments in push notification all make for amazing retention capabilities.

With such a vibrant field, we decided to do some digging to find the best retention software available out there. Here is our honest take on the pros and cons of the top 5 retention software available to you today. Note, the list is not written in a particular order.

We also wrote up an in-depth full post on the comparison between ad networks. This will help provide all the details needed for choosing the right Ad Network for your mobile app. Check out the article or download the full comparison spreadsheet below for free.
 

FREE AD NETWORK COMPARISON SPREADSHEET

 

Apsalar logo - a video ad networkApsalar

We start our list off with Apsalar that recently merged with Singular to bring us a pretty robust marketing analytics platform. The platform offers a lifecycle management solution for both marketers and mobile app developers. The main focus of the platform is to get the right users for you, to analyze them, offer great analytics and give advice on how to target your users with various campaigns. Similar to Google Analytics, but yet different since Apsalar focused on mobile from the start. It can offer actionable analytics, which will help you keep an eye on your revenue, user engagement as well as retention. Here are some pros and cons of the platform

Pros Cons
Segment comparison (user segmentation as well) No custom dashboard
Engagement analysis No messaging service
Can acquire users for you
Create funnels
Analytics across multiple apps
Free tool that allows specific user targeting

Urban Airship logoUrban Airship

Mobile engagement company founded back in 2009 in the US. Combining app push messages, proximity targeting and analytics, the company has focused on vertical growth and industries such as media and entertainment, retail, sports, travel and hospitality. They cover companies such as ABS news, Adidas and Virgin Galactic to name a few. The company pushes over 10 billion messages a month to over 2 billion active app installs.

Pros Cons
Free Trial pricy
Amazing throughput
High security
Real time retention package

SwrveSwrve

Some would call it a comprehensive mobile marketing platform, which in a sense it is. The dashboard is offered with numerous iterations to suit anyone’s taste. Funnels, cohort analysis, vanity, retention, monetization, all of these tools can be located on the main dashboard which allows for quick access and adjustments. Besides push notifications, the bread and butter of the company is app analytics, A/B testing as well as in app campaigns. It managed to secure business from the likes of Electronic Arts, Sony and Warner Bros. Here are some pros and cons of this platform.

Pro Cons
Segmentation capabilities which allow push message personalization Pricing not published publicly on the site
Analytic tools for A/B testing Web interface is a bit clunky
Great dashboard Pricy
 

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

 


AppSeeAppSee

This platform has a very unique approach to marketing. In essence it’s a visual in-app analytics platform. What does this mean? By stimulating you with various visuals (and numerous colors), the platform helps you measure, understand and improve the user’s experience. With “classic” analytics you also get an additional bonus of getting access to information on users’ behavior. They provide you with real user sessions so that you can understand what happens and when (example: why users don’t finish their registration form). Heatmaps are very intuitively designed and can help you tons in figuring out where your users focus. User interaction will lead to events creation which, in turn, you can use to create conversion funnels in the platform itself. Some pros and cons:

Pro Cons
Unique visuals Pricy
Free Trial Customizability finite
Playback recordings of user sessions
Automatic integration
Crash recording

LocalyticsLocalytics

A very good mobile analytics and marketing platform that covers Android, iPhone, iPad, HTML5, Windows apps and Blackberry. Like Appsee, Localytics also offers the ability to monitor user behavior on mobile and web devices, but in real time. The company was founded in 2009 and now supports over 37 000 apps, their grit has lead them to land business with Skype, HBO, eBay, Microsoft and other big names. The whole idea of the platform is to take action based on insights that you get from watching users interact with apps in real time, they tied in a marketing add-on that will let you target users for specific actions. Here are our pros and cons for Localytics:

Pros Applovin
Real time engagement tracking A bit tricky to integrate
User insights – trend tracking in retention No external API
Personalized messages, ads and campaigns No change graph for funnels
Great support Data not delivered in real time
Sending in app messages and push notifications

CountlyBonus: Countly

We just couldn’t resist to add Countly to our list, it is not one of the leading analytics tools however it has a unique position, great UI and an intuitive design. It is dear to us since it is an open source mobile analytics application, which offers data in real time, with an easy to use dashboard and all info you need at a glance. It lacks some segmentation options that the leaders in the field have, but if you’re looking for a free and helpful solution, we would recommend this cool platform.

Conclusion

Though your favorite platform may not be on the list, we tried to focus on elements that will make your life easier when utilizing the platform such as user-friendly interface, customization ability, multiple OS, user retention capabilities, or push notification functionality. We hope that this list helps you find your favorite mobile retention software solution.

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Analytics, App Monetization

Measuring and optimizing opt in rate in rewarded video

One of the areas in which a company can drastically increase ad revenues with a relatively low effort is through the optimization of opt-in ratios to rewarded videos. Here we will show how to track and optimize opt-in rates with SOOMLA TRACEBACK.

What is opt in rate and why does it matter

Rewarded video is a unique format in the sense that it’s not forced on users. The game is offering some reward in return for watching a video and the user can accept the offer or not. These offers can be made with a pop up message, a button on different screen in the app or sometimes by replacing a call to action that would normally be prompting the users to pay. Regardless of the offer method, the users can accept or decline. The number of users who decide to take the offer is often called engaged users and the dividing them by the total number of active users is considered the opt-in rate.
One thing that is clear is that users who don’t engage with the rewarded video don’t contribute any revenue so by increasing the opt-in rate we are making the pool of monetizing users bigger. It is also known that users monetize best in their first impression and so getting more users to opt-in means you are getting a lot more of those valuable 1st impressions. Our experience has shown that increasing the opt-in ratio by x% often translates to a similar increase in the total ad-revenue.

Measuring the opt in with SOOMLA TRACEBACK

One of the easiest ways to measure the opt in rate is to use the TRACEBACK platform. You can see your overall opt in rates and number of engaged users but you can also look at specific segments and breakdowns across these dimensions:

  • Countries
  • Platform/OS
  • Versions of your app
  • Traffic sources
  • Date ranges

Looking at specific segments allows you to find improvement opportunities. The way to spot these is simple – a low opt in rate means there is a room to grow it.

What is a good opt in rate

Depending on your game of course and how well you are doing with IAP monetization you can reach as high as 80% opt in rate according to this study by Unity Ads. However, apps that focus more on IAP would be smart to first convert the users into payers and only then try to push them harder to videos. From this reason we should look at the opt in rate on a cohorted basis and set different goals depending on the lifetime of the users. These are good benchmarks:

  • 1st month – 20%
  • 2nd month – 50%
  • 3rd month – 60%

Optimizing opt in rates

Once you have identified a segment that falls below the target opt in rate, you can use TRACEBACK to optimizie it. One way to do it is to track the opt in rate in different versions of your app. Whenever you launch a new version you can immediatly compare the opt in ratio to the one of the previous version and check if you are moving towards the goal or away from it.

Example – Optimizations results in higher opt in rate in later versions 

Here is an export from our dashboard into Excel showing the opt-in rates in different version of the app.

While comparing opt in rates between different versions is easy to do and comes as a built in feature of the platform, a better approach would be to use TRACEBACK alongside an a/b testing tool. This allows customers to compare between different versions and configurations simulatnously in a randomized testing environment. TRACEBACK will present the opt in rate for each testing group in the dashboard so you can easily compare and pick the winning configuration.

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App Monetization

IMG_4102One of the things that were a part of mobile apps since the early days is the REMOVE ADS button. The idea is simple – ads generate low amounts of revenue per user and getting $0.99 or $1.99 from them is better from the app publisher stand point.

Not showing ads to payers is the standard practice

Even in games that don’t have a specific purchase option around removing ads it became a standard practice to not show ads to depositors. This is based on the same approach that ads yield low amounts of revenue while purchases yield higher amounts.

Rethink what you know – ad whales exist

In recent posts we covered the existence of ad whales. Individuals who generate large amounts of ad revenues for their app publishers. Here is a user who generated $74 in ad revenue in November, and this user generated $52 in December. While these levels of revenue per user are quite rare for ad monetization, they are also quite rare when it comes to in-app purchases.

How many users generate enough ad revenue to level with payers

If we consider how much revenue is generated by a payer – the minimum is $0.7. The lowest purchase by a user is $0.99 and given that Apple and Google take a cut of 30% the publisher gets 70 cents.
Based on the data SOOMLA Traceback is collecting we can check how many users go over the point. How many monetize with ads at least to the same level as payers. The result is that in some games that relay heavily on ads it’s more than 10% of the user base. This is higher than a normal conversion rate to payers. We can also check how many users went over $3.5 which is the publisher share of a more $4.99 purchase by a user. The result is that it’s over 2% in some games.

Rewarded videos offer incentives to users

Let’s start thinking about a different approach. Should we allow any type of advertising to people who paid? One area to consider is the type of advertising in question. Ads that may annoy a paying user could be a bad choice from a user experience perspective but what about incentivized formats such as offer walls and rewarded videos. These formats are loved by users so the question becomes more about optimizing the revenues.

Option 1 – reversed approach

Let’s imagine for a second a complete mirror image of the “no ads for payers” approach. What this means is that we set a threshold of $0.7 and the users who have made at least $0.7 in ad revenue are considered ad-whales. Once we classified someone as an ad-whale, we don’t allow him to make purchases in the game. That would be the reversed approach to the “no ads for payers” approach. If it sounds silly to you – it’s because it is silly. Blocking someone from paying in a game is just nonsense but so is the “no ads for payers” approach. Why block someone from making revenue for you through watching ads?

Option 2 – balanced approach

A more reasonable approach to the problem is to simply allow users constent access to all methods of getting benefits. A user can get benefits by buying them, by watching video ads, or by taking on offers. Since the payout of a video view by a user is normally determined in retrospect, the publisher could apply a model where the rewards are dynamic based on the past payouts received for that user. If such a model is implemented, the publisher can guarentee that the price of getting the benefit is balanced across the different methods the user has for getting them. For example, if the eCPM of a user starts falling after a while, his rewards for watching videos will decrease and he will be more inclined to make purchases. If however, the eCPMs for a specific users are growing over time, the rewards he will get from watching videos will increase and he will have more motivation to keep watching them as opposed to buying something.

Ad measurement tools are becoming a must have

This type of innovative monetization strategies are becoming critical for the survival of game studios. We covered before the increase in CPI rates and how companies needs to adapt to stay relevant. Advanced segmentation and monetization measurement tools that can find the ad whales segment for you are becoming a must have in today’s mobile eco-system.

 

If you want to start measuring your monetization and find ad whales you should check out SOOMLA Traceback – Ad LTV as a Service.

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App Monetization

Kate Uptown is starring the Machine Zone (MZ) ads for their Game of War which has been advertised heavily in the last 24 monthsDemand diversity is a topic not many people discuss in the mobile game monetization forums. To understand it let’s think about the journey or a user through our app. The first time the user watches an ad, the mediation will check what is the ad-network that is on the top of the waterfall today and will have that network serve the ad. The network will normally try to serve the highest yielding campaign they have – why don’t we call the app in the ad Mobile Assault – it will help us refer to it later. In many cases, this user will see the same ad over and over again in the same day and more time in the next day. Having a user see an ad for 100 times these days is not uncommon. This is the demand diversity problem I’m referring to.

Why demand diversity is important

From a user perspective, seeing the same ad over and over is a poor user experience. The first time you are seeing an ad, it could be interesting, cool or even funny. If you have seen the new Clash Royal ads, they are quite amusing. However, nothing is interesting, cool or funny after you have watched it a dozen times already. At that point, it is just annoying.
From an ad effectiveness perspective, showing the same ad over and over is a bad choice as well. It leads to banner blindness so users stop noticing the ad. Most ads today are shown with the purpose of creating installs for tha advertised app and blindness leads to low click rates and conversion rates so less installs are generated.

The business models determine who takes the risk

One of axioms of online advertising is the chart below. Basically it says:

  • In a CPM model the risk is on the advertiser side while the publisher has guarnteed income
  • CPC is the middle ground
  • In a CPA/CPI model the risk is on the publisher side while the advertiser has guarnteed outcome

Illustrative chart showing the risk levels for publishers and advertisers based on the selected business model: CPM, CPC or CPI

The mobile advertising industry today is mostly driven by the CPI model which is a form of CPA meaning that the publishers assume most of the risk. They place ads in their apps hoping to get paid but their monetization is driven by whether or not the users ended up taking additional actions outside of their apps.
So now that we established who has the risk, we also know how is the one that gets heart from the situation. Users who watch the same ad over and over again become blind to it and the publishers’ monetization levels are getting hurt.

Risk and data are normally aligned

In most business situations, the party who is willing to takes the risks is the one with better tools to assess it and mitigate it. For example, in a CPM model, the advertiser assume the risk but they demand transparency about where their ads are being placed and have tools to measure the performance. In mobile app monetization however, the publishers are the one assuming the risks but they are doing so with complete lack of data or measurement tools. More specifically, the publishers are the ones that get hurt from the lack of demand diversity but they actually have no way to measure and manage it.

Mediation platforms are also left in the dark

The parties that are in the perfect position to be the police of demand diversity are the mediation platforms. Publishers are trusting the mediation companies to act as their agents and help them manage things of this sort using their ad-tech expertiese. The problem is that mediation companies are also in the dark about what ad is being shown to the user. They simply call the ad-network SDK as a black box that shows ads but they don’t get any information out.

Ad networks only see their own ads

The only type of company that has information about what ads are shown to the user are the ad-networks. The problem, however, is that each ad-network is only aware of what ads they show. Instead of collaborating and sharing this data between them and be part of the solution they are part of the problem since an ad-network that is not aware of what other ad-networks are showing is likely to show the same popular advertiser again to the user.

Choosing ad networks smartly

App companies often tend to choose ad-networks based on rumors of their projected CPMs or based on how well it worked for their friends. Often, one ad-network will seem better than another in the eyes of the publishers due to their presence in shows and their general brand perception. However, choosing 4 networks that are practically representing the same demand menas making the problem worse. It’s common to see a rewarded video stack that includes Supersonic/Ironsource as the mediation in addition to Vungle, Adcolony, UnityAds and Chartboost as the ad-networks. These networks are considered the best when it comes to rewarded videos for mobile games. The problem here is that thery are all bringing similar types of ads. The chances of a user seeing the same ad over and over again is much higher like that. A smarter strategy for selecting ad partners is to try and figure out how to diversify. SSPs can often bring more diversification through access to exchanges and there are also companies like Mediabrix who focus only on bringing brand advertising.

Diversifying through blacklists

Most ad-networks supports blacklists as a way for publishers to block certain advertisers from placing ads in their apps. This is mostly used for 2 things: 1) blocking competitors and 2) blocking inappropriate ad content. This feature however, can also be used to force ad-networks into skipping ads that are being shown too much. If you focus on the top 5 ads shown in your app and only allow one ad-network to serve them you will force the other ones to bring new ads and diversify the user experience.

Getting more visibility to what ads are being shown

While a solution to this problem might look far fetched at the moment, it’s actually feasible. The ad-networks are under a lot of pressure to be more transparent at the moment and this is one area where if each network gives up some transparency it can receive a lot in return. After all, ad-networks also loose from ad blindness. It will be a better world for everyone, publishers, advertisers, mediation platforms, ad-networks and users. However, someone needs to take the first step. Until then, feel free to contact SOOMLA if you want access to this kind of information. A side benefit of publishers gaining access to this info is that it will accelerate the path to full transparency by the ad-networks.

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SOOMLA - An In-app Purchase Store and Virtual Goods Economy Solution for Mobile Game Developers of Free to Play Games